Women have been subjected to the worst forms of bigotry, discrimination, and exploitation since time immemorial. Till now, the plight of women is horrible not only in India, but also in other parts of the world. Women have been fighting for their rights for ages, and somehow they have managed to get their fundamental rights to equality. Due to other crimes like mental harassment, sexual violence, and physical torture, strict laws are needed to protect women against these violations.
Male dominating society, gender-biased laws, and traditional attitudes were the main obstacles in the women’s way to lead a life with dignity.
There are legal rights that give women the power to fight against all such crimes. But the fact is, most of the women are unaware of the special privileges which they have in India. The need of the hour is to be aware of certain things that can help women live in a country like India, where women are still struggling for gender equality.
We have listed some of the necessary legal rights of women in India to spread awareness among them.
Important Legal Women Rights in India
Women rights are broadly classified into two main categories
- Constitutional Rights
- Legal Rights
Constitutional rights include the rights given by the constitution itself. No discrimination based on gender, right to equality, equal pay for equal work, security for adequate means of livelihood, etc., are a few examples of constitutional rights.
Legal rights are based on the evolving enactments in the country. The requests are laid out specifically against some instances or crimes. Here are some of the legal rights of women that we think everyone should be aware of. Most of these rights are exclusively laid out for women.
Let’s take a look and find out how many of them were you already aware of?
1. Right Against Workplace Harassment
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
Harassment at workplaces is faced by a lot of women coming from various fields. These harassment cases were recently highlighted by the #metoo movement where celebrities and working women came out in public and accused their employers/colleagues of harassing them at workplaces. Women have their right to file a complaint against any such kind of sexual harassment at their place of work.
Under this act, every employer has to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). A woman can submit the complaint in writing to the ICC at any branch office of the company. This committee has to resolve the complainant’s case within 90 days.
2. Right Against Being Stalked
Section 354D of the IPC. Stalking
In today’s era of social media, where women’s presence on the internet is increasing day by day, the cases of online threatening, trolling, and stalking has normalized to an extent. Most of the women reading this article must have experienced this thing once in their life. When some Bollywood songs, movies are making this ‘stalking’ thing ordinary, it’s not the happy experience for women. Stalking a person, especially a woman, is an offense in India. So if you are right now worried about a stalking person, don’t take this thing lightly.
Suppose a person follows a woman, tries to contact her without her consent, or makes an attempt to monitor her movements, locations with the help of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication. In that case, a complaint can be filed against any such person by the victim. This section of the IPC protects a woman’s right against stalking.
3. Right to Register Virtual Complaints
If a woman cannot visit a police station for any reason, this legal right gives that woman the freedom to virtually file the complaint.
A woman can file a complaint via email or send it to the police station’s postal address if she cannot physically visit the police station.
After getting the complaint, the SHO registers the complaint and sends a police constable to record the victim’s statement.
4. Right Against Domestic Violence
Statistics hit a ten year high recently in the complaints filed under domestic violence during the lockdown period from 25 March 2020 to 31 May 2020. Section 498 of IPC protects a woman’s right against domestic violence. This section looks to protect a wife, female, live-in partner, or a woman living in the household (mother, sister) from domestic violence. The violence includes verbal, emotional, economic, or sexual abuse at the husband, any male, or even the relatives.
The accused will be punished with non-bailable imprisonment, which may land the offenders in jail for three years.
5. Sexually Assaulted Women Can Keep Their Identities Anonymous
In a society where victims have blamed themselves for heinous crimes, it becomes difficult for women to stand up and lodge a complaint against the offenders. This pressure that society exerts on a woman makes it difficult for them to do the righteous. Under a special right, the privacy of a woman who has been sexually harassed is protected. She may record her complaint alone before the district magistrate or in the presence of a female police officer.
6. Right on the Matrimonial Home
Married women’s property act, 1874
In this patriarchal society, when a husband dies, the wife is seen as a liability to the in-laws’ family. Such families may try to snatch the woman’s right to live in her matrimonial house. A married woman has the legal right to live in the marital home even after the husband dies, and this right is protected under The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
7. Indecent Representation of Women Act
Publication of derogatory imagery that objectifies the female form or indecently represents the gender, hurting the sentiments, dignity, and honor of a woman is a punishable offense under the indecent representation of women act. The act prevents women’s vulgar expression in paintings, writings, or any other published material.
If a person or company/institution publishes such imagery, a woman can file complaints against them.
8. Right to Zero FIR
Women can file a complaint at any police station irrespective of the location where the incident happened. The police in charge cannot refuse to register this complaint because it doesn’t come under their jurisdiction. The FIR registered at the police station is then moved to the police station, whose jurisdiction the case falls. It helps a woman to save time and also protects her offender from getting away scot-free.
9. Maternity Benefit Act
Working women significantly improve a country’s economy. The workplaces today are becoming more and more gender-neutral. But in a world where gender-based pay gaps are a reality, women are often forced not to bear children to stay competitive with their male colleagues. The Maternity Benefit Act helps women protect their employment during their maternity time by entitling them to a ‘Maternity Benefit.’ This maternity benefit is a paid, full absence from work leave, which helps the mothers take care of them.
10. Right Not to be Arrested at Night
A woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, not an exceptional case. In addition to this law, police can only interrogate a woman’s place in the presence of a woman constable.
11. Right to Dignity and Decency
Any medical examination procedure of a woman must be performed by or in the presence of a woman. Women have the right to have dignity and decency.
12. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act
The trade of humans for sexual slavery, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation is called human trafficking. Every year millions of men, women & children are forcefully traded for commercial gains. In India, The Immoral Traffic (prevention) act intends to prevent the citizens from such actions.
13. Dowry Prohibition Act
Dowry is favored by a woman’s family in terms of money, property, assets, jewelry, etc., to the family of the man she is getting married. Often high dowries were demanded, and women were threatened and tortured even after getting married. While this ritual still prevails under societal pressures, the Dowry Prohibition Act prevents dowry in marriages in India. It is a punishable offense and can put the offenders behind bars for up to one year.
14. Say No to Female Foeticide
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act
Due to India’s declining sex ratio, the parliamentarians made specific laws for curtailing female foeticide. Women can raise their voices against their families or their husband if they are forced to take the sex selection test in the desire of a baby boy. Sex determination tests can now lead the offenders behind bars under this act.
15. Women Can Have Their Family Property
Hindu Succession Act of 1956
This act gives the right to a woman to inherit parental property equally with men. The women can be legal heirs and therefore share the rights to the property inherited.
16. Right to Abortion
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1871
It allows a woman to terminate some instances of pregnancies by registered doctors on humanitarian and medical grounds. If a woman gets an unwanted pregnancy or, in some cases, cannot undergo it through her pregnancy, then she should have the right to terminate it. The amendments in this act are done in 2020, which further strengthen this activity in favor of women.
17. Right to Claim Child Custody
Both parents have the right to custody of their kids. If a child is less than five years old, then a woman can get legal custody of her child even without court orders.
A woman can claim her children’s custody after divorce or separation even though she is employed or not.
18. Right to have Equal Pay
Equal Remuneration Act
You must be aware of this legal right that the constitution of India gives. Irrespective of their gender, this equal pay phenomenon came to light when US women fought for this. That’s what they called the ‘ feminist movement.’ According to this act, no one can be discriminated against based on sex when it comes to salary, wages, or pay.
19. Right to get Free Legal Aid
Legal Services Authorities Act
Legal aid here means free services provided to the weaker section of the society ( yes, it includes women) who cannot afford to conduct a case or fight in court due to financial issues.
Female rape victims have the right to get help from the free Legal Services Authority, which arranges lawyers for the women victims.
As it is rightly said – ‘Knowledge is Power.’ Women can protect themselves, their daughters, mothers, and sisters if they know their rights and dignities. Not only women, but men should also be aware of such legal rights that women have as there are fewer chances of oppressing women. The patriarchal mindset has played an evil role in crushing women in our long history. But time has changed. Women are now aware of their rights, the freedom they should have. Laws in one way or the other can help to make conditions better in our society. To ensure you are safe at your home and workplace, these rights are bliss if you know them. These were some of the most important legal rights that every Indian citizen should know. So share this article with the people you care about. Women’s rights are essential and can only be utilized if they are aware of them.
Stay Safe, Stay Happy, ladies!